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First impressions of the HTC Touch Dual with new finger-optimized photo application

I won the Astraware Casino contest the first night of Mobius Amsterdam 2007 and was given an HTC Touch Dual as the grand prize. I've had a couple of days to spend with the device and wanted to post my first impressions and a video of the very cool new photo and media player applications from HTC. I also used the device all day today with a Vodafone data-enabled SIM card and the new Google Maps application to get around town and see some of the local sights. If you like the HTC Touch, but want something better and more functional then check out my YouTube video and first thoughts of the device below.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I won the Astraware Casino contest the first night of Mobius Amsterdam 2007 and was given an HTC Touch Dual as the grand prize. I've had a couple of days to spend with the device and wanted to post my first impressions and a video of the very cool new photo and media player applications from HTC. I also used the device all day today with a Vodafone data-enabled SIM card and the new Google Maps application to get around town and see some of the local sights. If you like the HTC Touch, but want something better and more functional then check out my photo gallery and first thoughts of the device below.


 Image Gallery: The HTC Touch Dual is an excellent upgrade over the HTC Touch.  
Image Gallery: HTC Touch Dual in hand
 
Image Gallery: Touch Dual in retail box
 

The HTC Touch Dual is a very new Windows Mobile 6 device that is available in Europe at this time. There is no current U.S. model and unfortunately that means that the 3G is also not compatible with U.S. 3G networks. The HTC Touch Dual is so named because of the dual modes it can switch into with a simple slide-up of the display. Underneath you will find a standard phone keypad and a couple other navigation buttons. I saw a friend's German version that actually had a QWERTZ SureType keyboard and understand there is a model with a QWERTY SureType keyboard. I REALLY like this type of keyboard (2 characters on each key for most keys) on my T-Mobile Shadow and was hoping to see this on the Dual, but the 4 additional buttons may be more valuable in the end.

The Touch Dual also has some very good specs that explain why it is SO much better than the HTC Touch that was just too disappointing with a 200 MHz processor and 64MB RAM. The HTC Touch Dual has a Qualcomm 400 MHz processor, 256 MB ROM, and 128 MB RAM so it is on par with other Professional (touch screen) devices. I also found the TouchFLO to be more responsive to my finger presses and do like this after a couple days of use, for the most part. The usage of a hardware keypad is a big deal for me since I went to a Smartphone (non-touch screen over a year and a half ago because I just couldn't stand dialing on the display. It will be interesting to see if I move to the Touch Dual as my primary device due to this new compelling hardware and available 3rd party apps.

The device has Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support, but there is no included WiFi radio. I rarely use WiFi on my WM Smartphone so this may not personally be much of an issue. Then again, this is a Professional device and without 3G (in the U.S.) or WiFi I definitely won't be streaming my Slingbox or performing other high data consumption tasks. It has a 2 megapixel camera with no flash and a microSD card slot for storing those images on a card. An 1,120 mAH battery is included and I haven't had a chance to really test this out yet.

The Touch Dual is also not as wide as the HTC Touch and really feels great in your hand. It is extremely well built and feels rock solid, with that rubberized comfortable material wrapping the outer case. The directional pad is big and easy to use and the send/end keys are widely spaced. The keypad is actually quite nice in that the keys are good sized and have good tactile feedback when pressed. They do sort of run into each other, but I have been pretty precise about hitting it. One thing that was apparent though is that the keypad is not well integrated into the operating system (Professional) since keypads really are not found on these devices. For example, pressing the back arrow really doesn't do anything in any application but move back when you are entering text. On Standard (non-touch screen) devices this back arrow will take you back to the previous display so that will take a bit of getting used to.

The TouchFLO seems more sensitive and with the faster processor things really fly around on the device. Two applications that are clearly improved are the Music and Photos apps. Pressing the Music button won't take you right into the ancient Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, but instead will allow you to interact with your music in a simpler way. Photos is the big change and now you don't ever have to use the lame Pictures & Videos utility. Pressing on Photos launches a visual thumbnail photo explorer. You can then simply press on a photo and see it in full screen mode. Zooming in and out is as simply as drawing a circle clockwise or counter-clockwise over the object to zoom into. Zoom is not done by 2x, 4x, 10x, etc., but rather the object you draw the circle around zoom in. You can rotate images with half of a circle and pan around zoomed images with a simple press, hold, and then slide around. You can also flick between your photos with a simple gesture. Photos can also be shared from the Photos application. I had a lot of fun using Photos and "fun" is appealing to consumers, especially after the iPhone. I am on the road still in Amsterdam so I only have the Nokia N95-1 to take the video and it just doesn't do a very good job of delivering a clear picture up close. I promise to shoot and upload a better quality video for my final thoughts/review in a couple of weeks that captures other features of the device.

A couple of other immediately apparent improvements in the Touch Dual over the Touch are the right index letters in your contacts list (iPhone-like), the larger most recently used apps in the Start menu that are fully finger friendly, and the improved on-screen keyboard.

I plan to give the HTC Touch Dual my traditional 2 week primary device usage and will see if it can knock the Shadow from my hands.

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